July 31, 2016

ACTA is proud to announce that two Master Artists from California, Artemio Posadas and Bounxeung Synanonh, are among the nine recipients of the 2016 National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowships, the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.

artemio posadas

Artemio Posadas, a native of San Luis Potosí, Mexico, is a master sonero, or player of traditional Mexican music, and his skills include music, dance, an in-depth knowledge of lyrics and poetry, and the skills of a repentista (spontaneous verse improviser) that pertain to the regional music of Veracruz (son jarocho) and the Huasteca region. Artemio is currently a master artist in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program for 2016 where he will establish a program for his apprentice Jorge Beltrán to further develop his ability as a repentista within the son jarocho tradition. Artemio also participated as a master artist in the Apprenticeship Program in 2005 with apprentice Dolores Garcia, and in 2000, for the inaugural round of the program with apprentice Nydia Algazzali in son huasteco.


Bounxeung Synanonh has been playing the Laotian khaen (free-reed mouth organ) for over four decades. He learned to play the instrument from elders in his home village of Savannakhet, Laos and today is considered by many the best khaen player in the United States. In 1987, Bounxeung performed for President Ronald Reagan at the White House and in 2007 at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. In 2008, Bounxeung participated in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program with apprentice Monty Bouasone.  

The 2016 NEA National Heritage Fellows:

Bryan Akipa (Sisseton, SD) – Dakota Flute Maker and Player

Joseph Pierre “Big Chief Monk” Boudreaux (New Orleans, LA) – Mardi Gras Indian Craftsman and Musician

Billy McComiskey (Baltimore, MD) – Irish Button Accordionist

Artemio Posadas (San Jose, CA) – Master Huastecan Son (Mexican Musical Tradition) Musician and Advocate

Clarissa Rizal (Juneau, AK) – Tlingit Ceremonial Regalia Maker

Theresa Secord (Waterville, ME) – Penobscot Nation Ash/Sweetgrass Basketmaker

Bounxeung Synanonh (Fresno, CA) – Laotian Khaen (free-reed mouth organ) Player

Michael Vlahovich (Tacoma, WA/St. Michaels, MD) – Master Shipwright

Leona Waddell (Cecilia, KY) – White Oak Basketmaker

With the announcement of the 2016 class, the NEA has awarded 413 NEA National Heritage Fellowships since 1982, recognizing artists working in more than 200 distinct art forms. More information about the NEA National Heritage Fellowships is available on the NEA’s website or in this fact sheet. The NEA will honor the 2016 National Heritage Fellows at an awards ceremony at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC on September 28, 2016 and a concert on Friday, September 30, 2016 at 8:00 p.m. at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium. The concert will also be webcast live at arts.gov.

Congratulations to all the 2016 NEA National Heritage Fellows!